Paul: When Diversity Isn’t the Right Kind of Diversity

Useful reminder that minorities are not monolithic in their political perspectives.

In many ways, it is a positive sign of civic integration when all groups participate in different political parties and formations, as is the case in Canada:

The death of Queen Elizabeth II has dominated headlines this month, homages to her reign and dissections of the Harry and Meghan situation unsurprisingly pushing other news aside, especially other stories from Britain.

But even amid all the pomp, one news item out of Britain has attracted curiously little attention. Liz Truss, the new Conservative prime minister, announced her cabinet, and for the first time ever, not a single member of the inner circle — what’s referred to as the Great Offices of State — is a white man.

The home secretary, Suella Braverman, is the daughter of Kenyan and Mauritian immigrants. The mother of the foreign minister, James Cleverly, emigrated from Sierra Leone. The new chancellor of the Exchequer, Kwasi Kwarteng, was born to Ghanaian parents.

Did the left break into applause? Were there hosannas throughout progressive Twitter heralding this racial, ethnic and gender diversity as a step forward for society?

Not exactly.

Instead, the change was dutifully relayed, often with caveats. “Liz Truss’s cabinet: diverse but dogmatic,” noted The Guardian. The new team was criticized as elite, the product of schools like Eton, Cambridge and the Sorbonne. These people aren’t working class, others pointed out. They don’t sufficiently support the rights of those seeking asylum in Britain or policies that address climate change.

“It’s a meritocratic advance for people who have done well in education, law and business,” Sunder Katwala, the director of British Future, a think tank that focuses on issues of immigration, integration and national identity, told CNN. “It’s not an advance on social class terms.”

This is an interesting criticism. “Meritocratic,” used here in a pejorative sense, means based on ability and achievement, earned through a combination of talent and hard work. Traditionally, merit served as the primary consideration in hiring, but some people today see the very systems that confer merit as rigged, especially against minorities. In an effort to rectify that imbalance and to diversify the work force, particularly for leadership positions, it has become common practice in hiring — in the business and nonprofit worlds, as in government — to make racial or ethnic diversity a more significant factor.

The trouble is that for many of the same people, ethnic and racial diversity count only when combined with a particular point of view. Even before Truss’s cabinet was finalized, one member of the Labour opposition tweeted, “Her cabinet is expected to be diverse, but it will be the most right-wing in living memory, embracing a political agenda that will attack the rights of working people, especially minorities.”

Another Labour representative wrote: “It’s not enough to be a Black or ethnic minority politician in this country or a cabinet member. That’s not what representation is about. That’s actually tokenism.”

The implication is that there’s only one way to authentically represent one’s race, ethnicity or sex — otherwise you’re a phony or a pawn. Is that fair?

I’m not politically aligned with Truss on most issues. This is not the team I’d choose to lead a country reeling from Covid, an energy crisis and the twin disasters of Boris and Brexit. But it’s Truss’s prerogative to hire people with whom she is ideologically aligned and who support her policies.

And one has to assume those new hires joined her willingly and with conviction. Surely they, like all racial and ethnic minorities, are capable of the same independence of mind and diversity of thought as white people — some people Trumpy, other people Bernie.

Nor are they the first conservative minorities to hold top positions of power in Britain. It was the Conservative Party that, despite widespread antisemitism, first appointed a Jewish-born prime minister, Benjamin Disraeli, in 1868. The three women who have served as prime ministers — Margaret Thatcher, Theresa May and now Truss — have all been Conservatives. The former prime minister David Cameron was no lefty, yet he made a point of emphasizing ethnic and racial diversity among his leadership appointments.

Black and other ethnic minority voters in Britain aren’t uniformly lefty, either. They cast 20 percent of their votes for Conservatives in 2019.

A similar diversity of political opinion among minorities exists in the United States, and it bewilders the left. An increasing number of Latinos are running as and voting for Republican candidates. Donald Trump got more votes from ethnic minorities in 2020 than he did in 2016. Black men’s support for Trump increased by six percentage points the second time around. And that was after the murder of George Floyd, an event assumed to have galvanized many minority voters on the left.

In his prescient 1991 book, “Reflections of an Affirmative Action Baby,” the law professor Stephen Carter decried many of the assumptions around diversity nascent at that time — including the notion that racial or ethnic minorities are expected to think as a group, not as individuals. He bemoaned “the idea that Black people who gain positions of authority or influence are vested with a special responsibility to articulate the presumed views of other people who are Black — in effect, to think and act and speak in a particular way, the Black way — and that there is something peculiar about Black people who insist on doing anything else.”

It’s been three decades since Carter’s book was published, and that lamentable assumption has only gained purchase. As he pointed out then: “In an earlier era, such sentiments might have been marked down as frankly racist. Now, however, they are almost a gospel for people who want to show their commitment to equality.”

It seems odd to have to point out in 2022 that “diverse” hires can be every bit as diverse on the inside as they are on the outside. For every Ketanji Brown Jackson, you’re liable to get a Clarence Thomas. Apparently, we need constant reminders that there’s more to people than meets the eye and that in multicultural societies, an acceptance of diversity must be more than skin deep.

Source: When Diversity Isn’t the Right Kind of Diversity

Martin: It’s not the economy, stupid. It’s the media

Good column, if depressing:

A major change in the communications system, Canadian media guru Marshall McLuhan opined long ago, “is bound to cause a great readjustment of all the social patterns, the educational patterns, the sources and conditions of political power, [and] public opinion patterns.”

Given the vast changes that have marked the digital age, McLuhan can hardly be accused of overstatement. The online world is corrosively altering social and political “patterns,” to use the McLuhan term, and destabilizing democracies.

In using internet platforms, fringe groups and hate generators have multiplied exponentially and contributed to an erosion of trust in public institutions. They’ve prompted violent threats against public officials, driven the United States into two warring silos, and cast a pall of negativity over the public square seldom seen.

The contamination of the dialogue is such that even agreement on what constitutes basic truths has come to be tenuous. Talk of a post-truth America is no joke. Canada isn’t there yet, but give the disinformation amplifiers more scope and we soon might be.

Bill Clinton’s campaign strategist, James Carville, may have had it right back in the 1990s when he famously declared why voters had soured on then-president George H.W. Bush: “It’s the economy, stupid.” But not today. Now it’s the media, stupid. It’s the upheaval in the communications system. A media landscape gone rogue.

Economic woes get regulated. Not so the convulsions in our information ecosphere. We have no idea how to harness the hailstorm. Few efforts are being made. Calls for regulation are greeted by a great hue and cry over potential freedom-of-speech transgressions.

So broadly has media influence and power expanded that a cable network has become the avatar of the Republican Party. Donald Trump has maintained support from the GOP because he has what Richard Nixon didn’t. A kowtowing TV network and a Twitter following, until he was blocked, of 90 million users.

Social media platforms, like an upstart rival sports league, have served to delegitimize, if not disenfranchise, traditional media, magnifying public distrust. There is still a lot of high-quality journalism around, including at this awards-dominating newspaper. But traditional media no longer set the tenor of the national discussion and help shape a national consensus as in times past. Enfeeble a society’s credible news and information anchors, replace them with flotsam and you get, as per the United States, a country increasingly adrift.

The trajectory of media decline is worth recalling. From having just two or three television networks in Canada and the U.S. that aired news only for an hour or so a day, we have expanded to around-the-clock cable networks. News couldn’t fill that much airtime so opinion did – heaps of it. Hours of tirades filled the airwaves from reactionaries like Rush Limbaugh. Then the internet took hold, along with the invasion of unfiltered social media, awash in vitriol.

And so the chaff now overwhelms the wheat.

Mainstream media got in on the act, lowering their standards, contributing to the debasement of the dialogue by running ad hominem insults on comment boards from readers who hide behind pseudonyms. As I’ve noted before, that’s not freedom of speech. That’s fraud speech.

The crisis in our information complex is glaring, but it isn’t being addressed. Mainstream media, while demanding transparency everywhere else, rarely applies this standard to itself. Despite its exponential growth in importance, the media industry gets only a small fraction of the scrutiny that other powerful institutions do.

Big issues go largely unexamined in Canadian media. We rarely take a critical look at the unfettered rise of advocacy journalism, the impact of the disappearance of local newspapers or media ownership monopolies. There are precious few media columnists in this country. There is no overarching media institute to address the problems.

Conservative leadership candidate Pierre Poilievre’s big idea is to deprive us of one of our longest-standing national institutions. He would gut the CBC, defund it practically out of existence. At his rallies, he’s cheered on lustily for the promise, an indication of the low regard held by many in the population toward the mainstream media.

Any kind of media-reform drive always runs up against the freedom of speech barrier. The Trudeau government has passed Bill C-10, but it was diluted and will have little regulatory impact. A Commission on Democratic Expression, whose membership included former Supreme Court Justice Beverley McLachlin, has recommended regulatory reforms to curb social media’s impact. But it didn’t receive anywhere near the attention it deserved.

There’s a vacuum. Ways to regulate the destabilizing forces in the new communications paradigm must be found; ways that leave no possibility of control by political partisans. Such ways are possible and, given the ravages of the new media age, imperative.

Source: It’s not the economy, stupid. It’s the media

Shafiq: Getting more immigrants to run for political office means paving the way for active citizenship

Of interest:

Kristyn Wong-Tam just made history. They became the first Asian-Canadian, queer and non-binary person elected to Ontario’s legislature, significantly expanding the vision of what a politician looks like in this country. 

Wong-Tam joins other recent Canadian political “firsts,” including Bhutila Karpoche, the first elected official in North America of Tibetan descent, and Doly Begum, the first Bangladeshi-Canadian woman to be elected in the country.

These leaders share a similar journey that first began with meaningful participation in civic engagement and community work, increasing political engagement, culminating in the decision to run for elected office.

Why does the political engagement of people like Wong-Tam, Karpoche and Begum matter so much?

Seeing a visibly powerful immigrant woman or non-binary person in an elected, decision-making role in the political arena empowers others to do the same. Emerging research shows that visibility and role modelling increases political participation and results in a stronger democracy from more diversified representation.

Higher engagement from traditionally under-represented groups strengthens our social and political fabric, creating more trust in our institutions. This is particularly important now when our democracy is threatened by the rise of misinformation, low voter turnout and a growing distrust of authorities and institutions.

So how can we support civic engagement for future trailblazers like Wong-Tam? In our recent academic and community-based research on civic participation of immigrants and refugees in Canada at the Journeys to Active Citizenship project, we found that the journey starts first with community involvement.

We found newcomers often become involved in local community-based activities before engaging in formal political activities like voting and running for office.

Unsurprisingly, voter turnout amongst immigrants is higher the longer someone has been in Canada. Elections Canada even acknowledges that language can be a barrier to voting for new Canadians, alongside a lack of knowledge of the election process, less awareness of early voting opportunities and a lack of trust in the Canadian political process. However, once immigrants and refugees overcome settlement challenges, they are more likely to vote.

Immigrant women in the past have been less likely to participate in formal political processes, however, they are much more likely to participate in informal civic activities, which often act as a critical stepping-stone to formal participation through actions like voting, writing to your elected representative or running for office.

So how can we bolster opportunities for formal and informal civic participation for immigrants, and particularly immigrant women?

Building social networks has been proven to strengthen integration and belonging and is critical to help immigrants establish trust with fellow Canadians. Enabling community engagement is another key piece of the puzzle.

Creating and strengthening civic education and engagement that is tailored to newcomers, particularly women, would be important to build the skills, knowledge, capacity and confidence that would enable newcomers to engage more fully in Canada’s democracy.

In our interviews and group sessions with immigrants and refugees over the last two years, we found three recurring sources of community: religious spaces, community-based organizations and post-secondary institutions. 

Academic literature also tells us that community-based organizations may act as mobilizing agents for civic participation. Delivering programs through these places of community important to newcomers in their early years would be critical for success.

Supporting programs that bolster opportunities for newcomers to engage in a wide range of community initiatives, such as volunteering, participating in local community events, or joining social clubs, will help foster a sense of trust and belonging in our political processes and institutions, and ultimately lead to an increase in formal political participation.

Canada already benefits greatly from the labour of immigrant women — something that has been highlighted throughout the pandemic. It’s time we included their voices, expertise and experiences in the political process. 

Source: Getting more immigrants to run for political office means paving the way for active citizenship

For campaigns looking to turn support into seats in Parliament, not all ‘ethnic communities’ are created equal

Good overview, particularly the comments by Erin Tolley. Looking forward to the October Census release that will allow for updating of riding demographics in terms of ethnicity, visible and religious minorities:

The conventional wisdom around the potential for so-called “ethnic voting blocs” to swing elections is often overstated, but “parties make a big mistake when they perceive of immigrant and racialized voters as a passive voting bloc,” says political science professor Erin Tolley.

“These are groups that are very politically savvy, and they understand their power and they understand the influence that they can have,” said Tolley, the Canada Research Chair in gender, race, and inclusive politics at Carleton University. “And when parties don’t repay that support by listening to their preferences or by acting to advance their interests, they take that power and they put it elsewhere.”

As communities like Italian Canadians, Sikh Canadians, and Tamil Canadians have each become more established in the country, Tolley said they have “flexed their political muscles” in order to get what they wanted from political parties, and to enter the political arena themselves.

Political commentator Seher Shafiq, a co-founder of the non-profit group Canadian Muslim Vote, said when Canadian Muslims became more organized and dramatically increased their voter engagement levels in the 2015 elections, “all of a sudden we had politicians engaging way more than before.”

“There’s a definite change of tone that wasn’t there before 2015,” said Shafiq, referring to how politicians “at all levels” now pay attention to hate crimes against Muslims, and even to Muslim holidays. Shafiq credits the grassroots organizing of several groups, including the National Council of Canadian Muslims, with increasing community engagement and with grabbing the attention of political parties.

“There’s something to discuss and maybe something to study about how a community that wasn’t organized in the way that the Sikh community or the Ismaili community is, became organized, and how that coincided with a dramatic shift in tone from government, and even to some extent action,” said Shafiq.

Sherry Yu, an associate professor at the University of Toronto who studies multiculturalism, media, and social integration, emphasized the role that so-called ethnic media play in helping new immigrants learn about the Canadian political process, and in boosting civic participation among older immigrants who have been more passive.

Yu told The Hill Times that many communities, especially those that are more concentrated in particular regions, have media outlets and community organizations that reinforce each other, with so-called ethnic newspapers being distributed at local shops and grocery stores.

The Conservatives and the Liberals each had periods during the 20th century where one or the other seemed to have the upper hand in terms of support from immigrants, with John Diefenbaker’s and Pierre Trudeau’s governments each assembling different coalitions of support over the decades. With the Conservatives in the midst of a leadership race, supporters have debated whether the party is doing enough to appeal to a broader voter base and which leadership hopeful can lead the way on that front, with the now-booted Patrick Brown regarded as the candidate who had the strongest ties to cultural and religious minorities.

Tolley said the idea of appealing to immigrant and racialized voters “is not a new idea. It didn’t start with Patrick Brown, it didn’t start with Jason Kenney.”

Under prime minister Stephen Harper and then-immigration minister Jason Kenney, the Conservative Party of Canada made a concerted effort to appeal to communities that had previously been assumed to be steadfastly Liberal out of gratitude for Pierre Trudeau’s policies on immigration and multiculturalism.

The strategy was reportedly born out of a conversation between Harper and Kenney over a pint at the Royal Oak Pub on Bank Street in Ottawa in 1994, when Kenney tried to convince the future prime minister that Canada’s conservative movement should seek out immigrants who shared its values.

Kenney’s packed schedule of visits to temples, gurdwaras, festivals, and other community events, which began during the party’s first mandate when he was secretary of state for multiculturalism and Canadian identity, earned him the moniker of “secretary of state for curry in a hurry.”

But Tolley warned against giving too much credence to sweeping narratives about so-called ethnic voting blocs. “Immigrant and ethnic and racialized Canadians have policy preferences just like other Canadians,” she said, “and they vote for a variety of reasons. Their ethnic or immigrant background is not the only reason and it’s often not even the most important one.”

“Community by community, some parties and some leaders have had success, but when you look in the aggregate, what they gain from appealing to one community, they often lose from a separate community.”

Tolley said there is “a bit of urban lore” that tends to oversimplify the Harper Conservatives’ success at reaching out to immigrant and racialized voters. She said the Conservatives saw a boost in their vote share from particular communities, mostly non-racialized communities such as Ukrainian Canadians, Italian Canadians, and Jewish Canadians, but that they saw very little support from other groups, such as Muslim Canadians.

“And in the aggregate it didn’t really budge the vote share one way or the other when you compare with other parties.”

Drilling down further into the data, Tolley pointed out that the Conservatives under Harper “were quite successful with Cantonese-speaking Chinese Canadians, but less so with Mandarin-speaking Chinese Canadians.”

Political campaigns looking for cohesiveness and geographical concentration

Carleton University political science professor Erin Tolley says former prime minister Stephen Harper used Senate appointments to boost his party’s connection with immigrant communities. Photograph courtesy of Erin Tolley

For political campaigns looking for the most efficient way to turn community support into seats in Parliament, not all immigrant or racialized communities are created equal. Political organizers are focused on winning ridings, said Tolley, more so than they are interested in expending finite resources on driving up their party’s overall vote count. 

“Groups that are larger in number and are cohesive, and who reside together in a district, that’s the kind of group that a party is going to find very attractive,” said Tolley, “because that is how elections are won and lost.”

“I think that’s why you see parties tapping into Ismaili Muslims or Punjabi Sikhs,” said Tolley, “rather than courting the Black vote.”

“One reason that I think parties have largely ignored Black Canadians is that they don’t know how to tap into that community because it is such a diverse community. It is geographically spread out. And that stands in the way of parties figuring out how to effectively organize within that community.”

Shafiq concurred, saying that the fact that much of the Muslim Canadian community is concentrated in key swing ridings in the Greater Toronto Area contributed to creating a perception among political parties “that this is a community they need to engage.”

Sikh Canadians have been elected in ridings where the community forms a substantial segment of the local population, such as Vancouver and Surrey in British Columbia and Brampton and Mississauga in Ontario, with growing populations around Edmonton and Calgary also electing Sikh MPs.

After the 2015 election, The Globe and Mail reported there were 17 Sikh Canadians elected to Parliament–16 for the Liberals, including several who made it in cabinet, like International Development Minister Harjit Sajjan (Vancouver-South, B.C.)–making Punjabi the third-most spoken language in the House of Commons.

The fact that multiple political parties have sent Sikh Canadians to Parliament means those MPs can serve as a pool of knowledge within their community, and an avenue through which the parties can make further connections within the Sikh community. The first waves of Ukrainian Canadian MPs and Italian Canadian MPs filled the same functions in previous decades.

But getting that first generation of leaders elected to Parliament remains a challenge for communities that are less established on the Canadian politician landscape. In these cases, said Tolley, political parties look to other elected bodies, such as school boards, to identify up-and-coming leaders.

As prime minister, Harper also used Senate appointments as a way “to cultivate leadership within the party,” said Tolley, appointing community leaders to generate goodwill and to make inroads into communities that did not yet have representation in the House of Commons.

For all the complaints that Harper’s government shut out the press during its time in power, it actively sought out and tracked political coverage in the so-called ethnic press. In 2012, Kenney told Alec Castonguay, then chief political reporter for L’actualité, that he made it a habit to read translated versions of the ethnic press every morning, before reading the mainstream national papers.

When Kenney was immigration minister, The Canadian Press reported that the department of citizenship and immigration spent $745,050 between March 2009 and May 2012 tracking media coverage by so-called ethnic or multicultural outlets, including assessments of campaign events and perceptions of Kenney.
Yu, whose research includes comparisons of the Vancouver Sun and the Vancouver Province with two local Korean community newspapers, said this media monitoring was an acknowledgement of the significance of ethnic media, but said she was concerned that the information gathered was not shared with the public.
“Until the release of these documents, we did not know that monitoring was done,” said Yu.

Maturation of a community leads to new demands

As communities become more established in Canada, however, they may no longer be satisfied by a meet and greet with a prominent politician or with a promise that a party will consider a particular policy proposal, said Tolley. “There is definitely evidence of a transformation in political behaviour among community members. Some refer to it as a maturation of one’s political involvement.”

The Tamil community has had several decades to establish itself in the political landscape. It has elected MPs from different parties in ridings in Scarborough, Ont., including Liberal MP Gary Anandasangaree (Scarborough-Rouge Park, Ont.), a three-term MP first elected in 2015 who has served as president of the Canadian Tamils’ Chamber of Commerce. Many Tamil Canadians arrived in Canada in the 1980s, during the civil war in Sri Lanka.

Ken Kandeepan, a member of the advisory board for the non-partisan Canadian Tamil Congress (CTC), told The Hill Times that “many people in the Tamil community are actively involved in politics” and that community members have provided “considerable support” to various parties at the federal level.

But, he added, it was “a pet peeve” of his that once the elections are over, “the quid pro quo is somewhat absent.” As an example, Kandeepan mentioned appointments to directorships for government corporations.

“It is unfortunate that once the elections are over, these kinds of outreach are not made to the Tamil community. In asking them for appropriate candidates and individuals to be appointed to these positions, at least to the best of the knowledge of the CTC.”

“So the attitude seems to be ‘please help us,’ and ‘thank you for your help, and we’ll see you at the next election.’” 

Tolley said Kandeepan’s comments are an example of a case where members of a particular community “don’t want to be seen as just a set of votes.”

“They want to be taken seriously, they want to have a voice. They want to be able to run and be successful as candidates supported by parties. And when they are successful, they would like to see themselves in positions of influence. Parties that don’t take that seriously learn pretty quickly that, sure these are potential voting blocs in one’s favour, but they can also shift alliances.”

Source: For campaigns looking to turn support into seats in Parliament, not all ‘ethnic communities’ are created equal

Quebec’s Conservative party surges in the polls as some of its candidates spread conspiracy theories

To watch. May make Quebec’s provincial election more interesting but more worrisome:

When Éric Duhaime took over as leader of the Quebec Conservatives last year, the party had never held a seat in the legislature, never been invited to a major debate and never raised more than $60,000 in donations in any given year.

It was, basically, a fringe party, unaffiliated with the federal Conservatives and considered too libertarian for most Quebec voters since it was formed in 2009.

In the last 15 months, though, Duhaime’s party has wrangled a seat in the legislature, started polling near 20 per cent. It has racked up nearly $500,000 in donations this year alone.

Source: Quebec’s Conservative party surges in the polls as some of its candidates spread conspiracy theories

UK Conservative Leadership: Sunak’s hardline immigration plan includes a cap on refugees and floating detention centres for asylum seekers

Of note as the two contenders compete for the anti-immigration vote:

Rishi Sunak has sparked outrage as he set out a hardline plan to deal with immigration if he becomes prime minister. The package features a cap on annual refugee numbers and the withholding of aid from some of the world’s poorest countries if they refuse to take back failed asylum seekers.

The former chancellor, who is trailing Liz Truss in polls of Conservative Party members in the current leadership election, said he would ramp up the controversial plan to operate deportation flights to Rwanda and that he would seek to establish similar schemes with other countries

And he said he would bar anyone arriving by small boat across the Channel from remaining in the UK – despite the fact that the majority of unauthorised arrivals are currently awarded asylum status.

Meanwhile, Ms Truss has also doubled down on support for the controversial plan, calling it the “right” policy and indicating she could extend the scheme further.

“I’m determined to see it through to full implementation, as well as exploring other countries that we can work on similar partnerships with. It’s the right thing to do,” she told the Mail on Sunday.

Source: Sunak’s hardline immigration plan includes a cap on refugees and floating detention centres for asylum seekers

Britain’s Surprisingly Diverse Tories

Significant, with interesting contrast with the base:

Fed up with Boris Johnson, Britain needs a new prime minister. It’s so fed up, in fact, that the next prime minister may look nothing like Johnson—that is, white, male, privately educated. The last time the Conservatives held a leadership contest, in 2019, the field of 10 contenders contained just one person of an ethnic-minority background and only two women. This time is remarkably different. Of those originally in contention, half were of ethnic-minority backgrounds and half were women. Until today’s initial selection, Britain could have had in Rishi Sunak or Suella Braverman its first Asian prime minister, in Kemi Badenoch its first Black prime minister, or in Nadhim Zahawi its first Kurdish and Muslim prime minister. (Zahawi has been eliminated, but Sunak, Braverman, and Badenoch remain in a field of six hoping to advance to the final stage of voting, slated for September 5.)

That such milestones could be achieved by a distinctly right-of-center party may seem odd—ironic, even—given the international left’s perceived patent on diversity and multiculturalism. But in Britain, the Conservatives have the best track record of political firsts, including the first Jewish prime minister in Benjamin Disraeli and the first female prime minister in Margaret Thatcher. Sajid Javid, whose recent resignation as health secretary led to the flood of Tory ministerial departures that toppled Johnson, was not only the first British Asian to put himself forward for the position of prime minister in 2019 but also the first ethnic-minority chancellor and home secretary. The Conservatives have produced the first female home secretary of an ethnic-minority background, the first Black chairman of one of Britain’s major political parties, and the first Muslim to attend the cabinet.

Conservatives haven’t always championed diversity in this way. Although the party elected its first lawmaker of Asian descent, Mancherjee Bhownaggree, in 1895, it would take nearly a century to do so again, this time with the election of Nirj Deva in 1992. Britain didn’t get its first British Asian woman in the House of Commons until in 2010 (when two were elected at once). Only five years ago did a British Asian ascend to one of the great offices of state for the first time (with Javid’s appointment as home secretary in 2018).

I reached out to Sunder Katwala, the director of British Future, a think tank that specializes in ethnicity and identity, to understand why the Conservative Party in particular has led Britain to this historic moment and what it reveals about the country’s sense of self.

“The pace of change of this development is absolutely extraordinary,” he said. In his view, this Conservative field represents “probably the most ethnically diverse contest for party leadership that has been seen in any major party in any democracy. For a party of the right of center, it’s off the scale.”

Diversity, after all, is generally regarded as a progressive shibboleth, not a Tory one. But as Katwala told me, this shift in representation among Conservatives did not happen organically but was the result of a years-long effort spurred by the former Conservative leader and prime minister David Cameron. When Cameron took over in 2005, the party claimed just two ethnic-minority members of Parliament, and he set out to ensure that his party more closely resembled the modern Britain it hoped to lead.

The next year, Cameron introduced a priority list of female and ethnic-minority candidates to be selected, many for safe Conservative seats. By the next election, the number of Conservative female MPs had risen from 17 to 49, and ethnic-minority MPs had increased from two to 11. Today, those figures stand at 87 and 22, respectively. By diversifying his party “at the top and from the top,” Katwala said, Cameron succeeded in transforming its image as a seemingly more inclusive and representative party, even if, in reality, it continued to lag behind the Labour Party in the diversity of its parliamentary caucus. In the House of Commons, more than half of Labour’s nearly 200 MPs are women and 41 are of ethnic-minority backgrounds—although Labour has so far failed to elect a woman or minority leader.

But Cameron’s diversity from above has not trickled down, and the Tory grass roots remain overwhelmingly male and white. Nor has the change of image necessarily resulted in more minority votes. During the last general election, the Conservatives stayed stuck at roughly 20 percent of the ethnic-minority vote compared with Labour’s 64 percent.

According to the party’s critics on the left, the Tories’ embrace of diversity among their senior ranks has hardly made Conservative politics more progressive either. Many of the party’s ethnic-minority leadership hopefuls are, in fact, among its most hard-line politicians on policy issues such as immigration, Brexit, and the rights of transgender people. The multicultural composition of the current leadership field seems only to have consolidated support for the Johnson government’s harsh plan of deporting asylum seekers to Rwanda in a bid to deter illegal migration—a policy all of the candidates back.

Faiza Shaheen, an economist specializing in inequality and social mobility and a former Labour Party parliamentary candidate, told me that the prevailing belief in progressive circles is that increased diversity naturally leads to policies that benefit the most disadvantaged communities. She regards this belief as misguided because the benefits have not materialized—rather, the reverse. “You have this weird conundrum when you have more Black and brown people in senior, powerful positions, but policies that disproportionately hurt people of color,” she told me. Shaheen also pointed out that although the Conservative Party has made progress in achieving more ethnic diversity, social class and economic status remain significant dividing lines between those with access to power and those without.

Another part of the paradox of the Tory leadership contest is that although the contenders themselves are representative of a more diverse Britain, the voters will be that far less diverse electorate of roughly 200,000 Conservative Party members. Still, notes Katwala, many of the leadership contenders’ personal stories offer an optimistic, patriotic view of Britain that goes down well with the party faithful.

“There is no doubt at all that the Conservative Party membership can vote for an Asian or Black candidate,” he said. “The only people who doubt that are liberal progressives who are projecting assumptions and stereotypes onto the Tory Party membership, and maybe onto the voters that switch to the Conservatives at the general election, to say, ‘They won’t do that.’”

The latest leadership polling of party members, which puts Badenoch and Sunak among the top contenders to the front-runner Penny Mordaunt, shows that they’d have very little hesitation about doing so.

Source: Britain’s Surprisingly Diverse Tories

‘Conservatives are losing traction in ethnic communities:’ Will their leadership race make it even worse?

Likely premature call.

As we know, voters in the 905 have flipped between Conservatives and Liberals, and Doug Ford won most of these ridings in 2018 and 2022.

And during the recent leadership debates, there was remarkable consensus in favour of immigration and no opposition to the current government’s ongoing increase in immigration levels:

Cyma Musarat still remembers being accused of having lost her mind when she ran for the federal Conservatives in 2019.

As a Muslim woman, she was asked time and time again how she could cast her lot with a party that promoted policies condemned as racist.

In her riding of Pickering-Uxbridge, it was a particularly sensitive topic — during the 2015 election campaign, the Tories held an event in a pocket of the riding where they promised a so-called “barbaric cultural practices” tip line for people to report on their neighbours.

The tip line proposal and support for a ban on face coverings during citizenship ceremonies were seen as key contributors to the party’s defeat in the election.

And not just that year.

The policies effectively bombed the bridges the party had built with ethnic communities, and the issues surfaced in the 2019 and 2021 campaigns as the Tories failed to make the gains in urban centres.

What it will take for the Tories to win the next election is the question at the heart of the party’s current leadership race.

But how ethnic communities factor into the equation is a point of contention, and an issue not being debated enough, some say.

So far, the race has not seen debate over social issues like systemic racism or inequality, or even how the party can and must embrace equity and inclusion internally, said long time political activist Sukhi Sandu, who backed the Tories in the last federal campaign.

“The Conservatives are losing traction in ethnic communities, and they seem not to understand the issues that pertain to those racialized groups,” Sandu said in an interview from Boston, where he’s working towards a master’s degree in diversity, equity and inclusion.

Musarat believes the party must first acknowledge these issues exist, then move beyond a process of just checking off boxes.

For her, that’s why Brampton Mayor Patrick Brown’s leadership bid is so appealing.

“He openly says that Islamophobia exists,” she said. “That’s where the journey starts. That’s where the change will start: acknowledge the problem. Once you’ve acknowledged it, and then you find a solution to fix it.”

Brown built his leadership bid on his outspoken opposition to Quebec’s Bill 21, which bans people in positions of public authority in that province from wearing religious symbols, like turbans or hijabs, at their workplaces.

He went on to promise a multi-faith, multicultural coalition that would restore trust between the Tories and ethnic communities.

While signing up what his campaign says are 150,000 new party members, Brown has made specific promises to different ethnic groups.

In turn, he has been accused of playing diaspora politics — an accusation his backers say is proof most candidates aren’t willing to do the hard work of sitting down with voters to listen to their specific concerns and address them.

“People have this misconception that someone stands up at the front door on stage and says, ‘We’re all gonna support Patrick,’ and, you know, 50,000 people sign up for the man,” said Jaskaran Sandu, a volunteer on the Brown campaign.

“That’s not how it works. It’s painstaking, person-to-person relationship building that only works if there is sincerity and a track record.”

Brown has also been unsparing in his attacks on rival Pierre Poilievre, challenging the Conservative MP for remaining silent when the Tory government introduced the niqab ban and proposed the tip line.

Poilievre’s campaign co-chair Tim Uppal has apologized for not personally pushing back against those policies when he was an MP — and minister of state of multiculturalism.

Uppal said he had no concerns that the candidates’ positions on tackling racism aren’t getting a broad airing on the campaign trail. An issue like that only gets debated if there’s a flashpoint which prompts it, he said.

He said while Brown is recruiting in diverse communities, so too is Poilievre, citing a recent speech to a packed mosque, among others.

“What I’ve talked to people a lot about is that they’re being included because of issues that are important to them, which is taxes and other issues that affect all Canadians,” he said.

Leslyn Lewis, a Black woman making her second run for the Conservative leadership, did not respond to questions from the Star about how she views the future of the party’s relationship with ethnic communities.

Vonny Sweetland is working on Jean Charest’s leadership bid, a decision based on the depth of the former Quebec premier’s experience — and his willingness to bring people like Sweetland onto his team.

The leader sets the tone, said Sweetland, who is Black, and Charest’s is inclusive and progressive.

But both Sweetland and Sandhu said they have concerns about what will happen to the party if the populist elements that appear to be playing a major role in this race ultimately triumph.

Sandhu pointed to the tension between members recruited with a promise the Conservatives will embrace diversity and those brought in over concerns about global institutions like the World Economic Forum, around which conspiracy theories with racist undertones persist.

“Why do you expect us to be involved or continue if that’s the type of rhetoric that’s going to be included back into the party?” he said of those recruited by Brown.

“That doesn’t actually solve the issue — it goes back to the basis of the problem, which is that the Conservative party is not ready to look in the mirror and evolve and realize why it falls short in places like the 905.”

Sweetland said while he’s planning to give the new leader is some runaway, whoever it is, there is anxiety among other Black conservatives.

“I’ve seen, people, particularly people of colour, feel that this is not only a leadership race — and I’m sure you’ve heard this quote, it’s not mine, but I agree with it — that this is the battle for the soul of our party,” he said.

“And many people of colour feel that way.”

Source: ‘Conservatives are losing traction in ethnic communities:’ Will their leadership race make it even worse?

Tolley: Women and racialized political candidates are being set up to fail

I’m less pessimistic than Tolley given overall progress election to election, albeit slower than desired. And gender equity may be more of a factor in winnable ridings as visible minority and Indigenous candidates are largely, but not universally, as a function of riding demographics:

Recent elections have resulted in more women, racialized and Indigenous people holding political office in Canada. That’s good news, but we’ve got a long way to go. Elected institutions still do not reflect the demographics of the populations they claim to represent. These representational gaps are a clear indicator of democratic inequality.

It’s not that there is a shortage of qualified candidates from diverse backgrounds. It’s that the major parties still tend to privilege candidates who are white, male and middle-aged. Parties have many of the tools they need to address electoral under-representation, but rather than being a gateway into politics, parties are frequently the gatekeepers. It’s time this changed.

Political parties are the central pressure point in any effort to address electoral under-representation. The problem isn’t really voter bias: Canadians tend to base their voting on party and leader preference, and this inclinationtends to override all but the strongest prejudices against local candidates. There also isn’t a shortage of qualified candidates, but parties frequently underestimate the electoral potential of those who don’t fit the mould.

If all parties nominated a more diverse slate of candidates in winnable districts, elected institutions would be more representative.

In the lead-up to Ontario’s most recent election, commentators pointed to the high number of women and racialized candidates, including many with immigrant and minority backgrounds. But when the votes were counted, the legislature’s gender composition remained stalled at just 39-per-cent women.

What happened?

We need to look beyond aggregate candidate “diversity” numbers. It’s not just who gets nominated, but also where they run. Realizing it is electorally advantageous, some parties have attempted to recruit more women and racialized candidates, but women especially continue to be disproportionately nominated in ridings the party has no hope of winning. This isn’t inclusion.

And although there has been some progress in the right direction, it’s not enough – and it hasn’t been across all parties at all levels of government.

For example, prior to the Ontario election, the Liberals set aside 22 ridings and designated them women-only nomination contests. In the end, the party’s dismal electoral fortunes meant they only eked out a victory in one of those designated ridings, but polling indicates this was more a rejection of the party and its leader than the individual candidates.

If all parties committed to nominating more women in winnable ridings, the demographics of our elected institutions would shift.

International evidence confirms the key role that parties can play.

In 2005, Britain’s Labour Party introduced legislation that permits parties to use all-women short lists to achieve gender equality in Parliament. In the 2019 election, 51 per cent of the party’s elected MPs were women. There is noevidence voters punished Labour for using a positive discrimination measure, and the selected women were every bit as qualified as other candidates, often even more so.

There is a straight line between more equitable nomination practices and increased gender representation. Political parties that are serious about democratic equality should take note.

But parties need to think about diversity beyond gender.

In Canada, the primary beneficiaries of most diversification efforts are white women. Federally, my own research shows that racialized candidates come forward for party nomination in numbers that exceed their share of the population, but parties still show a preference for white candidates, even in some of the country’s most diverse ridings. And even when they nominate more diverse slates, parties nonetheless funnel more money to prototypical white, male candidates.

Without financial and organizational support, candidates are being set up to fail.

Politics is increasingly seen as inhospitable. Electoral engagement is at an all-time low. If parties wait to see which candidates knock on their door and want to run, chances are it will be one of the usual suspects. The time to think about candidate recruitment and organizing is now – not just at election time or the few frantic months that precede it.

Enough hand-wringing. Parties need to recognize their role and commit to action. To open the gates, they must pro-actively identify, recruit and support a more representative slate of candidates with money and organizational capacity in ridings where they can actually win.

Source: Women and racialized political candidates are being set up to fail

From God to monsters – the “new nationalism” of the US right

Of interest:

In the New York Times on 1 June, one of the rising stars of the conservative movement, Nate Hochman, articulated what he takes to be the direction and meaning of the American right. The central thesis of his essay is that the religious right has been supplanted by “a new kind of conservatism” more secular in orientation and focused on culture war issues such as gender, identity, and what he ever-so-gently calls “race relations”. For Hochman, this new conservatism is based in a kind of class consciousness, with much of the coalition being comprised of dissatisfied – “exploited” – middle Americans countering the depredations of cultural elites: “Today’s right-wing culture warriors think in distinctly Marxian terms: a class struggle between a proletarian base of traditionalists and a powerful public-private bureaucracy that is actively hostile to the American way of life.”

To bolster his claims, Hochman refers to Don Warren’s 1976 book The Radical Centre: Middle Americans and the Politics of Alienation:

“The right’s new culture war represents the world-view of people the sociologist Donald Warren called “Middle American radicals”, or MARs. This demographic, which makes up the heart of Mr Trump’s electoral base, is composed primarily of non-college-educated middle- and lower-middle-class white people, and it is characterised by a populist hostility to elite pieties that often converges with the old social conservatism. But MARs do not share the same religious moral commitments as their devoutly Christian counterparts, both in their political views and in their lifestyles… These voters are more nationalistic and less amenable to multiculturalism than their religious peers, and they profess a scepticism of the cosmopolitan open-society arguments for free trade and mass immigration that have been made by neoliberals and neoconservatives alike.”

Hochman also draws on the work of the late right-wing American writer Sam Francis, one of the “paleo-conservatives” who in the 1990s augured the rise of Donald Trump, and who is among the best guides to understanding the trajectory of the contemporary right. Far from being a marginal or eccentric figure, he is read by prominent conservatives as both prophet and guide. There are even rumours that Francis is the favoured reading of some Department of Homeland Security officials. That Hochman himself, a fellow at National Review and a key figure of the US intellectual right, leans so heavily on Francis is proof enough of his importance.

“What is occurring on the right,” Hochman argues in his New York Timesessay, “is a partial realisation of the programme that the hard-right writer Sam Francis championed in his 1994 essay ‘Religious Wrong’. He argued that cultural, ethnic and social identities ‘are the principal lines of conflict’ between Middle Americans and progressive elites and that the ‘religious orientation of the Christian right serves to create what Marxists like to call a “false consciousness” for Middle Americans’. In other words, political Christianity prevented the right-wing base from fully understanding the culture war as a class war – a power struggle between Middle America and a hostile federal regime. He saw Christianity’s universalist ideals as at odds with the defence of the American nation, which was being dispossessed by mass immigration and multiculturalism. ‘Organized Christianity today,’ he wrote in 2001, ‘is the enemy of the West and the race that created it.’”

Is Hochman’s argument persuasive? As others have pointed out, there are good empirical reasons to insist on the continued importance of the religious right as a key constituency, from its role in Trump’s election to the assault on Roe vs Wade to the centrality of churches in the political base of the Republican PartyBut the religious right is part of a larger whole; a broader right-wing whose central inspiration is not primarily religious.

Other features of Francis’s vision are also instructive when thinking about the contemporary American right. First, the radicalism of the project: Francis was not really a conservative; he felt that the conservative movement had failed and even urged his friend Pat Buchanan to drop the “conservative” label when running for president in 1992 and 1996. His vision of nationalism was as much a call for a new order as a return to the past. In his 1992 essay  “Nationalism, Old and New”he rejected the “old nationalism” for a “new nationalism” that would replace the individualism and egalitarianism of Hamilton and Lincoln with something else:

“The pseudo-nationalist ethic of the old nationalism that served only as a mask for the pursuit of special interests will be replaced by the social ethic of an authentic nationalism that can summon and harness the genius of a people certain of its identity and its destiny. The myth of the managerial regime that America is merely a philosophical proposition about the equality of all mankind (and therefore includes all mankind) must be replaced by a new myth of the nation as a historically and culturally unique order that commands loyalty, solidarity and discipline and excludes those who do not or cannot assimilate to its norms and interests. This is the real meaning of ‘America First’: America must be first not only among other nations but first also among the other (individual or class or sectional) interests of its people.”

Whereas the “old nationalism” spoke the “abstract” and “alienating” language of universalism, the “new nationalism” is supposedly something rooted in the essence of the “real” American people. Here Francis echoed the “concrete nationalism” of the French far-right authors Charles Maurras and Maurice Barrés that emerged towards the end of the 19th century, which differed from the “old nationalism” of liberté, égalité, fraternité. As the French historian Michel Winock writes, this nationalism would “subordinate everything to the exclusive interests of the nation, that is, the nation-state: to its force, its power, and its greatness”, and was pitched in darker, more pessimistic registers than the old republican patriotism. “This mortuary nationalism,” Winock argues, “called for a resurrection: the restoration of state authority, the strengthening of the army, the protection of the old ways, the dissolution of divisive forces. In varying dosages, xenophobia, anti-Semitism and anti-parliamentarianism were dispensed in the manner appropriate to each of the publics targeted.”

Today, in order to give an accurate picture of the conservative movement Hochman describes, the list of “varying dosages appropriate to the publics targeted” could be altered to include anti-transgenderism, immigration fears, the thinly veiled racism of the anti-critical race theory (CRT) panic, or any of the other demagogic issues the right regularly summons.

Perhaps it’s not surprising that Francis would sound like a 19th-century European reactionary since he was an admirer of the work of Georges Sorel, a heretic socialist and Dreyfusard turned anti-Dreyfusard. The major concept that Francis gets from Sorel concerns the importance of political myth. Myths in this sense are concrete, imaginative embodiments of a group’s self-conception and political aspirations; they are not abstract party programmes or utopias. Francis believed that the Middle American Radicals and their leaders had to develop such a myth to replace the myths of “old nationalism”, all that nonsense about “all men being created equal”.

Well, they have at least one now in the form of the “stolen election”: what better way to embody the entire sentiment of dispossession, be it ideological or explicitly racial, than the idea that political power is being held illegitimately by one’s opponents. Another such myth is QAnon, which imagines an elaborate, evil cabal pulling the strings and then a sudden moment of eschatological deliverance from their machinations. Arguably, anti-vaxx sentiments function this way, too: creating an opposition between a rapacious overclass and the resistance of the people’s “salt of the earth” wisdom. The idea of “the Great Replacement” is another one, too. Hochman is probably embarrassed to speak about the centrality of these lurid myths on the right, but they might help explain the “secularisation” of the GOP: maybe there are just other, more chthonic gods now.

What about the “Marxian” elements of the new right? Hochman is right about its emphasis on class struggle but wrong about on whose behalf it is being fought. One of the characterisations right-wing culture warriors like to make about identity politics or critical race theory is that it replaces the structural role “the proletariat” once had in Marxism with some dispossessed ethnic group: so, instead of the industrial working class, now it’s – to use an extreme formulation – LGBT+ Latinx people with disabilities who are supposed to be the bearers of the revolutionary project, since the proletarian revolution failed.

This sounds like a poor interpretation of Georg Lukacs’ conception of class-consciousness, but it’s also exactly what Hochman and his fellows are doing: their class might not be really working class – Hochman admits it’s really the middle and lower-middle class – but they are somehow still “proletarian”, the revolutionary, or the “counter-revolutionary” – subjects that are achieving class consciousness of their historic mission to Make America Great Again. This is almost exactly “Cultural Marxism”: it simply replaces the material determinations of class struggle with the terms of the “culture war”.

So who is the class that is doing the struggling here? Again, it’s worth returning to Francis. At some points in his writing, Francis calls his Middle American Radicals “post-bourgeois” to emphasise their dispossession and alienation from the old bourgeois traditions and values. But in his mature work Leviathan and its Enemies, which was published posthumously, he opposed the feared and hated managerial class that supposedly runs the state and corporate bureaucracies, through to the plain-old bourgeoisie, that is to say, the class that owns, the proprietors of the “entrepreneurial firm (the partnership, family firm, or individual entrepreneurship)”. Hochman is being too modest when he says it’s just the middle and lower-middle class: the right enjoys the patronage of many great magnates and their families: Thiels, Kochs, Mercers, Uihleins, Princes, DeVoses, and so on. The Republican coalition is simply the alliance of the most reactionary sections of the whole property-owning class, the bourgeoisie from petit to haute. I’d argue their attack on the administrative state and their tax raiding has as much to do with the protection of their interest in this regard than any feeling of “cultural dispossession”. Indeed, the right now seems to be successfully attracting a broader swathe of the entrepreneurial class, as Elon Musk recently signalled his “new” Republican allegiance over labour issues.

Hochman may be interested in another Marxist category: totality, the notion that we have to analyse a social and political situation in its entirety, and that failing to do so will give us a false or incomplete picture. While he is more frank than most, Hochman doesn’t want to look at the right in its totality. Although he seems comfortable with the portions of the right that, despite being demagogic and repressive, remain within the bounds of legal and civic behaviour, like the anti-trans and anti-CRT campaigns, he doesn’t want to talk about the storming of the Capitol on 6 January, or the myth of the stolen election, the great replacement theory, or the cultish worship of Trump, or the Proud Boys, who now have a significant presence in a largely Hispanic Miami-Dade Republican Party. But these things are as much, if not more, emblematic of the modern Republican Party as young Hochman isAs Francis knew and was much more open about, these primal forces were the real right, with the think tank intelligentsia trailing behind or vainly trying to guide the masses.

So now let’s recapitulate the totality of the political situation, with the help of Hochman’s essay. He wants to say this new right is essentially a secular party of the aggrieved Mittelstand that feels the national substance has been undermined by a group of cosmopolitan elites who have infiltrated all the institutions of power; that also believes immigrants threaten to replace the traditional ethnic make-up of the country; that borrows conceptions and tactics from the socialist tradition but retools them for counter-revolutionary ends; that is animated by myths of national decline and renewal; that instrumentalises racial anxieties; that brings together dissatisfied and alienated members of the intelligentsia with the conservative families of the old bourgeoisie and futurist magnates of industry; that alternates a vulgar, sneering desire to provoke and shock with phobic moral prudishness; that is obsessed with a macho masculinity; that looks to a providential figure like Trump for leadership; that has street fighting and militia cadre; and that has even attempted an illegal putsch to give its leader absolute power. If only there was historical precedent and even a word for all that.

Source: From God to monsters – the “new nationalism” of the US right